SEEING HEAVEN AS OUR FINAL GOAL

Catholic Homily/ Marian Reflection
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2008


In these days, the whole world is focused on seeing stars, gold, stripes, honor, and reward … in Beijing, for the much-awaited summer olympics. For the more than 200 countries and territories that sent contingents big or small, the ultimate goal is that much coveted place under the golden sun, preferably replete with gold medals galore as testimony to their achievement, prowess, skills, and abilities in the various sports that the whole world tries to excel in … citius, fortius, altius … all goaded on by the mythical more in every sense of the term … faster, stronger, and higher!

The Olympics, for centuries, have always represented the best and the highest human aspirations of the family of humankind. Not a bad alternative to a world so marred and tarred also by the worst that humankind is also capable of … terrorism, war, murder and mayhem. (In the Philippines, and many other third world countries, all this is made worse by a political system that seems to be almost genetically wired to be corrupt, personage centered, and patronage based!)

The best and the worst of humanity … name it … we have it all … here, there where you might be reading this reflection … and everywhere where sin has taken root in the heart of man.

Still, for all the evil that sinful men have grown more capable of doing, from preventing births to snuffing out innocent lives, to killing innocent lives by the thousands in terrorism, to killing people softly through manipulation and massive corruption in and out of governments, humanity never loses sight of the best that the same humanity can offer, revel and glory in!

I speak about the best that humanity can boast of … I speak about the highest that humanity can, and was able to reach. No … I don’t speak of scaling Everest and K2 alone, not even of the fact that quite a few Filipinos who were born in the torrid tropics were able to make it to the roof of the world. All that is sure something to be proud of, to be healthily happy about. But I speak of something more. I speak of something that penetrates the heights – the physical and giddy heights of human achievement through one’s skills, abilities, and physical powers alone.

I speak about the citius, altius, and fortius of life at its best, life at its heights undreamed of and unforeseen by mortal men. I speak about the glory that goes beyond mere fleeting fame that lasts but a few seconds, a few minutes, days, months, and years. I speak about eternity and what is in store for all those who know where the real citius, altius, and fortius can ultimately be found.

And I speak today about the real possibility and reality made actual and palpable by what the poet Wordsworth has termed, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”

I speak about a woman blessed among all women – Mary – blessed not on account of medals earned, but on account of overflowing graces merited and received condignly and freely by a God whose love and compassion for us is everlasting!

Make no mistake about it … Mary received graces overflowing, not primarily because she deserved them on account of four or more years of training or, in our current language, her furiously trying hard for them. No … Mary received graces overflowing not primarily because of personal merit, but primarily because of a God so in love with us, so dedicated to the fruits of his handiwork – humanity – that He assured us the wherewithal to be able to pursue that which He ordained us for – Heaven and eternal life with Him.

Mary is our tainted nature’s solitary boast, not because she has competed for it, made a sprint toward it, or catapulted herself to it, but because God has so lovingly chosen her and called her to be what we all are ultimately called to. Mary is the first among the redeemed. Mary is mother of all graces because all of us are called to the same graces, the same favors, the same glory that God has prepared for us.

Yes, the greatness of Mary lies not in her making a mad dash for it, as people in the Olympics do in these days. Her glory lies in the fact that God has generously chosen her to be what she is, mother of God, mother of Christ, and mother of grace.

But there is more. Surely there is little merit in mechanically being what one was programmed to do. One can mechanistically respond to commands like a computer does. Given the right program, the right software, the right hardware, something like a robot can simulate obedience, dedication, and loyalty to its master and creator. But that spells greatness not for the robot, but for its maker.

This is not what I speak of. Mary is great on account of God, surely. But Mary is great not solely on this score. Primarily yes, but not solely. Mary, the mother of God is great because of the depths of her cooperation, the intensity of her response of ‘Yes’ to a God who deigned her worthy of being His Son’s mother.

And this is the greatness that today’s feast is all about. That greatness is not a one-sided, unilateral gift from above. That greatness is something that Mary merited both as a free gift from God and a free answer of love from below. That greatness is both God’s work and Mary’s – by her FIAT, by her act of self-oblation and self-offering to a cause that definitely goes far higher than any man can ever hope for, nor work for.

But Mary’ assumption into heaven is not just an empty boast. It is not just a dream not unlike the dream that the company “Dreamworks” is capable of putting up, to the total entertainment of a world gone hungry for things that are above, versus things that are here below. Mary’s assumption, which, by the way, not a single soul claims to have witnessed, is a boast that goes beyond being a preposterous claim of misguided souls. It is a boast that becomes a dream, that blooms into hope of something real, palpable, and achievable – a dream that goes beyond momentary glory that never goes beyond the fleeting reality of man’s earthly life. The great athletes that the Olympics have produced will remain etched in the memories of men all over, only until humanity can manage to speak about them and remember them for a limited posterity. But not so, the glory that awaits all those who believe, for no eye has seen, nor ear has heard what glory the Lord has prepared for those who love Him!

Today, we got a clue, and a real and palpable one of what awaits us. Mary, assumed into heaven, is our boast. She, too, is our claim – the claim of hope that makes it possible and imperative for us all to see heaven as our true goal!

'May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory'.

N.B. I write from Hayward, CA on my way to Austin, TX for my nephew's wedding. I ask my kind readers to include my sister Lita who was recently diagnosed with cancer in their prayers. I know in my heart that I can rely on my readers from all over the world now to say a little prayer for my intentions.

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